Springer, Santa Rita schools discuss revised facilities master plan

More than 40 members of the Springer School community provided the largest audience to date during their Feb. 12 meeting on the Los Altos School District's new master plan to renovate facilities. The board of trustees has scheduled open meetings for all six elementary schools.

Dave McNulty, the district's director of facilities construction, summarized the results of the site inspections.

McNulty mentioned that Springer, built in 1955, is unique because the entire campus was built at one time. The bad news is that the school, with the largest assets, also has the greatest need. The examining engineers used the term "nearing the end of its useful life" to describe most of Springer's infrastructure. The good news is that the assessment moves them to the top of the line for renovation.

McNulty pointed out that the study recognized that staff restrooms are inadequate and the students' need renovation. Also, all the schools need to "upgrade to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility codes."

Finbarr Crispie, a Springer parent, opened the questions from the audience by asking, "Is Springer dependent on Blach (Junior High)?"

"Yes," McNulty admitted, but added that he felt Blach is doable within a year. McNulty explained that the situation at Blach is quite different from Egan (which is not expected to be completed until late fall).

Another parent, Brian Marcus, had reviewed the new master plan and was concerned about the report of "major structural weakness" because of clerestory windows at Springer. "It sounds serious," Marcus said. "Could that be done sooner than planned?"

McNulty assured him, "If any school were unsafe, the district would close it down immediately." He added that even a quick fix would require tearing out the walls and would take longer than a summer. "We would have to tear them open again next year for the renovation."

Bill Daley questioned the priorities in the new plan, specifically replacing mechanical systems such as the furnaces, which are only about two years old.

McNulty explained that the furnaces were actually eight years old. They are in wooden boxes in a corner of the classrooms and do not isolate any sounds. Teachers turn them off; they would rather be cold than shout over the noise.

"The furnaces were an example of a Band-Aid," said trustee Duane Roberts. "We replaced radiant heating, which had begun to leak all over the place. We had no state money. Did it poorly. We don't want to repeat (the mistake)."

"I participated in one (site design) already," Antonio Martinez said. "Why go through the process again?"

"There have been some changes from the original concept," McNulty said. "There is a little less money now."

Roberts cited three reasons for needing a new site plan/design: "First, the original had one phase; second, (the original plan) took out some existing construction to be replaced with new buildings (that will not happen now); and third, we must have public review including neighbors, not just the school community."

"I feel fairly confident about numbers; Dave's staff oversees everything," said trustee Victor Reid III in response to questions about budget control. "For example, at Egan, the contractor submitted a bill over budget. Project manager Cory Thomas insisted on a copy of every single receipt. Her diligence saved the district $600,000."

McNulty assured the Santa Rita audience that the staff were aware of the situation with their multipurpose building. It serves (as does Bullis') as both a library and multi, separated with a wooden partition. That often leads to dueling activities such as band practice and reading.

Participants at Santa Rita urged the board to move the school last in the schedule, in sharp contrast to earlier lobbying by schools to be first. They hoped to avoid a second trip to camp school by doing both phases at once.

Santa Rita parents also exhorted the site committees to set realistic expectations for phase II to avoid the disappointment of downgrading again, McNulty said.

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